My flight arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire, Wednesday evening, and I had a beautiful drive from there to Concord where I was staying. Up early the next morning, I proceeded to Pittsfield and I had a great day working with a group of eight middle and high school teachers, exploring the subject of paper engineering and how it can be integrated into lessons on such varied subjects as math, science, reading and literature. We spent the day building pop-up models and discussing possible links to classroom curricula. I think everyone had a good time, as can be seen by the results here.
After school, art teacher Bill Mitchell and I visited the Pittsfield Youth Workshop where a group of young paper enthusiasts designed pop-ups of their own. They immediately came up with ideas for cards to give to people they knew.
Friday was spent with another group — elementary school teachers from various schools in the Pittsfield School District. The teachers had no problem linking the pop-up structures to lessons they could present in their classrooms, and appreciated the idea that designing pop-ups prepares kids from an early age for future work in three-dimensional design and mechanics. It was a fast-paced two days, and I’m anxious to hear how these teachers’ students respond to making pop-ups as part of future class projects. Thank you again for inviting me to Pittsfield Middle High School!
For the past two Mondays I traveled to Philadelphia to teach a special pop-up session for the students in Alice Austin’s book arts class at the University of the Arts. Despite bad weather, students showed up to try their hand at paper engineering. We made a series of models–pop-up platforms, props, V-folds, and other forms–which students can later use within the book formats Alice demonstrates over the course of the semester. I had a lot of fun with the students, and also enjoyed seeing my Philadelphia friends, Patty Smith, Mary Phelan, Susan Vigeurs, Sarah Van Keuren, and Lori Spencer.
I was childsitting over the weekend, and I usually spend an hour or two with the kids, making art. One of them decided to self-decorate her feet with my markers. Her “tatoos” were beautiful, reminding me of the henna tatoos that women draw on their hands and feet in areas of India, Pakistan, and North Africa, so we had a lively discussion about these beauty traditions and the various cultures that practice them. (See the Wikipedia article on henna dying)
Unfortunately she had grabbed a marker that leaves a fairly permanent mark, and afterwards we spent a half-hour in the bathroom, scrubbing away the damage. “I’m busted, ” she said. Still, it led to her making a wonderful little book on the subject, including two pop-ups: one of her feet and the other of her hands. Her older brother threatened to “bust her” by telling mom, but when mom came home, she was delighted with the book and thought my pictures of the foot drawings were wonderful.
My Sculptural Bookmaking class at the Corcoran College of Art + Design here in Washington, D.C., is in full swing, with nine students actively working on making pop-up accordion books this week. On Tuesday we covered cut-and-fold pop-up forms with extensions, along with spiral and straddle pop-ups. I also showed a slide presentation on the history of movable books. I’ll be keeping the blog up-to-date with the students’ ongoing projects.
This week I’m teaching a sculptural bookmaking class for the North Country Studio Workshops at Bennington College in Vermont. Despite the cold temperatures dipping below zero in the evenings, the studios are warm and welcoming. I have eleven industrious students who are working on their carousel books at the moment.
Bennington is a beautiful campus with a mix of traditional New England architecture and some strikingly modern buildings. We are enjoying sumptuous meals of freshly prepared vegetables, main courses, and too-tempting desserts. And the dormatories where we’re housed are light-filled and very comfortable.
Aside from my book class, there are classes running in drawing, metals, sculpture, ceramics, fabric arts, surface design, quilting, basketry and photography. Yoga flow classes led by Tracy Penfield are held morning and afternoon before and after classes. All this makes for a great creative environment with a lot of positive exchange between the participants. The volunteers for North Country Studios who work so hard over a two-year period to make this biennial event possible are to be heartily commended.
This past Friday and Saturday I was in Philadelphia for a bit of fun. I stayed with my friend, printmaker Patty Smith, who escorted me around town to some wonderful art events. Friday night we attended the opening for the show “14 For 7″ at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, with 14 works representing 7 decades of William Daley’s incredibly large hand-built ceramic vessels.
We also stopped by The Print Center to view “Canicular,” a group of commissioned works by Demetrius Oliver revolving around celestial themes. The show is only open on clear evenings because one of the pieces includes a live-feed projection of the star Sirius, and the remote telescope can only pick up the image on cloudless nights.
One of my main reasons for traveling to Phillie was to get some critical feedback from Patty and another friend, Jude Robison, on my new book, Land Forms and Air Currents, so after the Daley show we all met at the Shambala Center where Jude is an active member. Patty and Jude each gave me some great suggestions on how to refine the working dummie. More work ahead, especially on the text, but it’s work that I thoroughly enjoy.
Before leaving Saturday, Patty and I saw yet another exhibit at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. Currently on view are Sarah Sze’s large-scale installation pieces. Our favorite piece was on the second floor, composed of large faux-rocks fabricated of printed tyveck stretched over foam or chicken-wire armatures. Photographic images of lichen, moss and various stone patterns and textures make the sculptures look very convincing, while at the same time viewers realize the pieces must be light-weight in comparison to the rocks they represent.
We finished off the day with a turkey plate at the Reading Market before I headed back to Washington, D.C. on the Megabus.
A small but impressive exhibition of origami sculptures is currently on display at the Japanese Information and Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. This past Tuesday I attended the opening lecture and demonstration by two well-known origami artists, Michael LaFosse and Richard Alexander. Both men have extensive experience in this Japanese art form, and have published numerous books on the subject.
The lecture highlighted origami history and some exceptional examples of contemporary pieces. Afterward, we were treated to a lunch of sushi rolls, and participated in hands-on demonstrations by both gentlemen, making an origami border collie and an origami butterfly.